small change: your non-executive chair, or you

small change
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success


Blog 30  small change: your non-executive chair, or you


your non-executive chair

Your non-executive chair (or you) chairs your main board and should do three things:

  1. Decide when to sack the CEO
  2. Take full responsibility for governance
  3. Ensure the board is “effective”

A strong  Chair will know when to sack the CEO and make it happen. It’s difficult for others to do so.

A weak Chair is a disaster for a board because the CEO, in that case, is de facto Executive Chair and CEO. That combination is not good for the organisation or anyone in it.

Weak Chairs abound because the entire non-executive world is systemically weak. If it were strong there would be fewer corporate scandals and, arguably, we would not have had a Global Financial Crash in 2008, or at least its scale would have been considerably less.

The Chair is responsible for governance and, in the UK, the new FRC Corporate Governance Code 2018 and accompanying Guidance is as good a guide as any for all chairs, even if your organisation is not required to comply with its provisions. These are excellent and useful documents.

The only problem with the new FRC Code that it must assume strong chairs will apply it. And they don’t.

“Board effectiveness” is an irritating use of language because it panders to management-speak by converting an adjective to a noun.

Mangement-speak uses distancing nouns like effectiveness and engagement instead of adjectives like effective and engaging because the latter require us to take more responsibility for their veracity.

Your chair (or you) is responsible for ensuring that your Board is effective.

The most effective boards are those where the Chair creates an environment in which members feel they can ALWAYS call out behaviour they feel is inappropriate or address ANY issue. An effective board is one where fear is absent. It’s that simple.

How does your Chair (or you) score on this measure?


Ciarán Fenton

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